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Net Neutrality Back in the Canadian Spotlight

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Wednesday November 01, 2006
In a telling coincidence (I think), Canadian Press has two net neutrality stories out today.  The first is a general piece on network neutrality concerns from a Canadian perspective. Bell Canada is quoted as saying that "our position on network diversity/neutrality is that it should be determined by market forces, not regulation."  Several proponents of net neutrality legislation (including me) are also quoted in the piece, warning of the potential for network providers to abuse their position in a market that features limited competition.

As if to prove the point, a second CP story features an interview with Videotron president Robert Depatie, who proceeds to provide yet another example of why net neutrality legislation is needed.  Depatie floats the idea of an "Internet transmission tariff", as he calls on the government to levy a tariff on content providers such as the music and film industry for using high-speed networks.  Says Depatie:

"If the movie studio were to mail a DVD. . . they would expect to pay postage or courier fees. Why should they not expect a transmission tariff?"

This suggestion represents possibly the most extreme example of how providers might try to charge content creators and e-commerce companies - by obtaining the support of government-backed tariff.  An Internet transmission tariff should be a non-starter for the current government.  Moreover, Videotron's competitors ought to step forward and reject it as well.  In fact, much like Shaw's questionable VoIP surcharge and Telus' blocking of a union-supporting website, Videotron's Internet transmission tariff will go down as yet another example of why the lack of broadband competition raises genuine concerns about the potential for providers to stifle new creativity and innovation.  The Telecommunications Policy Review identified this as an issue with a recommendation for a net neutrality provision that should not get lost in Industry Minister's Maxime Bernier's rush to deregulate. 
Comments (5)add comment

Kevin McArthur said:

Advocate at Neutrality.ca
Thanks Michael for reporting on this very important issue. One more thing to mention is that in the second CP article, Depatie claims that content providers get a free ride; free shipping even.

This is simply not true. All internet companies pay for their internet connectivity and are in fact more likely than the typical consumer to pay-per-byte for this service. This cost is levy'd in the free market and goes to providing the type of network infrastructure upgrading he is claiming is needed. So there really is no free lunch for these companies and his statements are simply misleading.
November 02, 2006

Russel McOrmond said:

Reverse Logic?
I wonder if there is a bit of a reverse logic at play here. Is adding a tariff on content that goes to the telecos any more logical than putting a tariff on the telecos to pay for content? Is the Network Neutrality debate all that different from the debates we see over "educational use of the Internet" or legal protection for DRM (ie: allowing copyright holders the right to make their content only interoperable with "authorized" access devices, coupled with device manufacturers which treat the owners of the devices as the attacker of what they own)?

It is often hard to tell the incumbent monopolistic telecommunications providers and content companies apart, with both seeming to want to redesign and/or add additional tarrifs to ensure that the incumbents can never see competition from new uses and users of new technology.

[ link ]
November 02, 2006

Walter Dnes said:

...
The correct solution to the carriers' "problem" is to charge *THE CONSUMER* for gigabytes used, and let the consumer decide what they want to use their bandwidth allocation on (within legal limits).

If I buy 4 times as much groceries this year as last year, the grocery store charges me 4 times as much. Mr. Depatie's problem is that he charges flat rate. Imagine a gas station that charged the same monthly bill for filling up a humoungous SUV as for a gas-sipping hybrid.
November 02, 2006

Kyenta said:

...
I can't say that I agree with Walter's 'solution'. How can a user determine the size of the a website before they access it? This will lead to less use of the internet due to financial restrictions. It also could create a sort of class system on the internet - only the rich can afford to access the website with lots of graphics or download content. Those who don't have the income for this would no longer be able to access what should be accessible to all.

Also, where does this leave the libraries? It is well known that libraries are always struggling for funding. Also, they level the playing field regarding internet access - anyone is able to access the internet from the library - making it a tool that is open for all regardless of income or status. How will the library raise the funds to allow everyone access all sites?

Regardless of how you look at it - a pay-as-you-play structure for the internet is wrong. It is a democratically free medium and should stay that way.

http://maggie-muggins.blogspot.com
November 03, 2006

fedge said:

Robert Depatie is an idiot
The "website" pays for internet access. The "consumer" pays for internet access. That is about as neutral as it can possibly get. If Robert Depatie wants more money for his "troubles" of providing a service, perhaps he should raise his rates. I'm sure the "consumers" will enjoy this 100%. End of story.
November 05, 2006

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